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St Martin-in-the-Fields



Situated in Trafalgar Square there has been a church on the site of St Martin-in-the-Field from Medieval times, although it is possible that its religious use dates back to at least the 5th century. Originally located in the fields outside of the city walls the existing building was constructed in 1722-1726 to replace the previous building which was in a poor state of repair. Today the crypt contains an art gallery, gift shop, and the London Brass Rubbing Centre.



The Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields is situated at the north-east corner of London’s Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster and is dedicated to the French Saint, Martin of Tours.

A church has been on the site dating back at least to Medieval times when it was located in the fields outside the city wall, and the earliest reference to the church dates from 1222. Although excavations at the site in 2006 uncovered a grave from about AD 410, it is therefore believed that the site was at one time some form of Christian centre and that may have been established in a pagan temple.

In 1542 the church was rebuilt by Henry VIII, due to it being in an isolated position in the fields between the cities of Westminster and London, and this would prevent plague victims from entering habitable areas, particularly the Palace of Westminster.

By the middle of the 16th century, the population had significantly increased and the congregation had outgrown the building, so in 1606 King James I (1567 –1625)  granted an acre of land to the west of St Martin's Lane for a new churchyard, and the building was enlarged over the old burial ground situated to the east, increasing the length of the church by about half, the church also underwent repairs and improvements at that time.   Later in the 17th century, additional galleries were added increasing the capacity of the church.   

The church at that time was built of brick, rendered with a stone facing, and was about 84 ft (26 m) long and 62 ft (19 m) wide. The roof was tiled, and there was a stone tower, about 90 ft (27 m) high, with buttresses. The interior had a slightly arched ceiling supported by pillars. Its walls were oak-paneled to a height of 6 ft (1.8 m),  

By the beginning of the 18th century, the church was in a significant state of disrepair, and in 1720 Parliament passed an act allowing for a sum of up to £22,000, to be raised by a rate on the parishioners for the rebuilding of the church.  The new church was constructed in neoclassical style in 1722-1726 at a total cost of £33,661.

In the 1820s the creation of Trafalgar Square resulted in the removal of many of the adjacent buildings which up to that time had almost abutted the church.

The current church’s main west-front portico has a pediment supported by six Corinthian columns and a stucco ceiling. 


This order is continued around the church by pilasters. The tower, with its spire, is integral to the church, it is located behind the portico and rises 192 ft (59 m) above the floor of the church.

The interior is rectangular in plan and consists of a five-bay nave separated from the aisles by Corinthian columns. Over both aisles and also at the west end are galleries constructed of timber, timber also being used around the bottom of the walls. 


The nave ceiling is a flattened barrel vault, divided into panels by ribs. The panels are decorated in stucco with cherubs, clouds, shells, and scrollwork.  


Within the church are several memorials dedicated to those who gave their lives for the country, including those in the South African Wars of 1899-1903.


The crypt houses a café where jazz concerts are regularly held.  These provide the finance to support the charitable programmes of the church, which includes work with the homeless and vulnerably housed people.


Also within the crypt is an art gallery and gift shop, and the London Brass Rubbing Centre, which was established in 1975.



These have a separate entrance at the side of the church.


From 2006 to 2008 a £36-million renewal project was carried out on the church.   


              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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